“The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 7

The seventh installment in the series of articles written by our friend, Solomon Rajaram Hariharan, a member of the “Dream team 2012” of “Sri Lanka Unites”( A youth movement for hope and reconciliation).  

Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader in the United States of America who voiced for equal rights of the African Americans or commonly called ‘blacks’. King was an American clergyman, activist, and prominent leader in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using non violent civil disobedience. Martin became a national icon in the history of modern American liberalism. He is a leader who could not keep silent and let the world bring injustice to the people. ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter’. This is one of the many quotes of Martin. He believed that it was a responsibility of a leader to ensure that justice is established. ‘Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity’. Luther King always was a voice against injustice. He knew that keeping silent regarding injustice ensured a safe life. But he was willing to risk his life for the sake of justice.
It is common in many countries that leaders who voice against injustice get threatened. As a result, most leaders who voiced for justice so that they might get personal benefits start being silent. This because of their selfish intentions of self centered motives, instead of cause centered motives. It is sad that only a few leaders genuinely voice for justice for the sake of the society. The leaders who keep silent after being threatened publicly announce various reasons for their silence. Weren’t other world leaders threatened? How did they still manage to stay on their feet and voice for the cause they stood for?

The reason that drove many authentic leaders is that they lived the cause instead of just voicing for it. These leaders knew that they had responsibilities and duties to fulfill. They found the correct path which was a difficult one but chose to remain steadfast on it. As Luther King said when he was going through pain and suffering, ‘As my sufferings mounted I soon realized that there were two ways in which I could respond to my situation; either to react with bitterness or seek to transform the suffering into a creative force. I decided to follow the latter course’.

True leaders are not afraid to do what is right. Many leaders crumble when they see danger. A leader needs to courageously stand up for the cause. If the leader is afraid to do what is right, the cause will become useless. Martin Luther once said ‘Never, ever be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our souls when we look the other way’. This quote insists that the well being of the community is much more imperative than selfish intentions.

‘An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.’ As young leaders, we should attempt in understanding the significance of justice being implemented. We might be punished by the society for the cause we stand for. But when the well being of the society is ensured, the reward is peace. When we turn our backs on the issues the community faces, we are self inflicting wounds on our heart and soul. These wounds are hard to be cured; as they will continue to traumatize.

When I said voicing for the cause, it doesn’t mean using violence. Even the participants of violence accept that they cannot have a win-win situation. They know that violence is an open invitation to defeat. As Martin Luther said, ‘The limitation of riots, moral questions aside, is that they cannot win and their participants know it. Hence, rioting is not revolutionary but reactionary because it invites defeat. It involves an emotional catharsis, but must be followed by a sense of futility.’ Luther used non violence in voicing the cause he lived for. He mentioned that, ‘Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude’. When forgiveness becomes an attitude, the person will be able to respond violence with non violence and still generate an even more powerful reaction. ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’ By loving others, hatred can be washed away.

Usually when we see a sad circumstance we feel compassion and attempt to solve the problem. The common result is a short term resolution to the issue. The roots of the issue are not usually assessed. Problems should be solved by assessing the fundamental causes. ‘True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring’. Through this we can find out that Marin Luther attempted in solving the issues of the communities at whole. He planned on things ahead and identified the parts of society that needed changes.

Martin Luther knew that communication barrier was one of the vital reasons for conflicts. He understood the significance of communication between segregated sectors. He said that, ‘People fail to get along because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they have not communicated with each other’. We can see the effect of non communication affecting the lives of whole communities.

Marin Luther King Jr. had a clear vision of how he wanted the world to become. He said, ‘I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their skin but by the content of their character’. This was his vision for the United States of America. We can see now that though discrimination against the ‘blacks’ have not yet been totally wiped out, the level of discrimination had decreased a great deal. We can now see the President of the United States of America being a ‘black’. Martin’s non violence approach impacted many around the nation and the world. It also impacted the ‘whites’ who used to discriminate the ‘blacks’. Thus we can see the impact of non violence approach.


5 thoughts on ““The Journey on the Road to Reconciliation”-Part 7”

  1. It need not be said how amazing a person Martin Luther was. He gave people hope. Not just the Blacks but people around the world, who were being discriminated against. He showed that your skin color cannot determine your future. Many Blacks said, "Look I'm Black, whats the use of using my education and knowledge to change my situation. My life is meant to be like this." But Martin Luther didn't let threats and accusations hold him down. He made us all believe.

  2. Also I forgot to add this bit to my comment. The bit about hate, and how only love can drive away hate, reminded me of Amba Yaluwo by Martin Wickramasingha. There's that scene in the first bit of the book where Sunil and Nimal fight for that one good mango. And Nimal thinks how, "vairayen vairaya nosansidhe" which is what Martin Luther said, the Buddha said, Jesus said. But sadly, no one seems to live by it.

  3. Indeed, the fact that hate cannot drive out hate is universal. Lord Jesus asked us to love our enemies… Shailee, it's nice to see that you found a beautiful example from a popular Sinhala novel. Nimal offers the first piece of his mango to Sunil

  4. Hmmm….well, I'm not all too familiar with this Sinhala novel, but yes, violence is a vicious cycle. There's always somebody to retaliate, and the effects are always terrible.

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